REVIEW: Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn
Dear Ms. Shinn:
I remember that I originally checked this book out from the library. I had been a reader of yours but you hadn’t quite made it on my hardcover TBB list. The book languished on my nightstand for about two weeks when I realized I was getting close to the due date. So I picked it up and I couldn’t put it down and when I say I couldn’t put it down, I mean that I walked around my house to the car to the restaurant to the car and to my home without putting the book down.
Mystic and Rider tells the story of a powerful mystic, Senneth, who has been charged by her king to travel to Southern Gillengaria and investigate the rumblings of unrest. There are rumors of mystics being hunted and killed in the southern regions. Senneth chooses two mystics to go with her, Kirra Danalustrous and her companion, Donnal. Kirra and Donnal are shapeshifters. King Baryn orders two of the members of his elite personal guard, called the King’s Riders, to protect the group of mystics. Tayse and Justin are warriors and have a deep skepticism of mystics. The band starts out rife with distrust and infighting. The mystics can protect themselves and the Riders don’t much like the mystics.
This book takes us on a journey through many of the different lands of Gillengaria. Through the journey, we discover more about each character, their power, their place in life. Along the way, a young mystic, Cammon, is discovered at an inn and is integrated into the group. While the story is episodic in nature with a series of crescendos and denouements as the journey becomes increasingly dangerous the further south they travel, it is not a set piece. There is ultimate resolution to the underlying romance that develops between Senneth and Tayse, one of the leaders of the Riders.
For fans of romance, the setup is recognizable. Tayse is suspicious of Senneth and her magic. He is devoted to being a Rider. His father was a Rider. His grandfather was a Rider. He expected nothing less than to be the best Rider possible. Being a Rider means devoting yourself to the King and to your band of 49 other Riders. There is no room for anyone else. Few Riders are married and the few that are have poor marriages. But Tayse cannot stop watching Senneth. At first, he watches because he doesn’t trust her. Over time, he watches her because he cannot look away.
A relationship between Senneth, a mystic and something else, is forbidden by society and class restrictions. Tayse, devoted to the upholding the existing order, does not see a way for them to be together. I don’t think I am giving anything away by saying that I have read few books with as moving and romantic a declaration as Tayse makes to Senneth.
Your unique skill is using simple words to create rich characters, settings and emotions. It makes your work accessible and allows the reader to effortlessly slip into your world. At the close of the book, I finally put the book down and went to the store and bought my own hardcover copy. This book is a keeper, an A. I’ve read it 4 times since its purchase in early 2005.